The thousands of motorcyclists who descended on Springfield for the 41st annual National Bikers Roundup packed up Sunday after, what was in their minds, a successful five-day gathering.
The roundup, one of the largest annual gatherings of black motorcyclists in the country, brought as many as 20,000 bikers to the Illinois State Fairgrounds this past week.
The five-day rally — put on by black motorcycle clubs — featured concerts, a car and bike show, food and blood drives, as well as vendors, especially those selling motorcycle-related wares.
“As far as the business, business is good,” said Abdul Jackson, a T-shirt vendor from Atlanta who set up shop just outside the fairgrounds. “I’ve been here all week and it’s been very hospitable. All the bikers told me they enjoyed themselves.”
Judging by favorable reviews left on social media and the positive words of bikers packing up Sunday, Springfield appears to have successfully met the challenge of hosting.
Marilyn Johnson, of Indianapolis said she enjoyed the “awesome hospitality” of Springfield along with the tourism sites and campgrounds.
“One big, happy family is what it was,” Johnson said.
Eartha Bell, 59, of Pontiac, Michigan, said Springfield was a great place to spend her birthday week. She said she enjoyed the vendors and activities at the fairgrounds and trips around town, such as to Knight’s Action Park.
“This one was much nicer than last year,” Bell said, ranking the experience as nine out of 10. “More enjoyable, more things to do and see.”
The first national roundup was organized in 1977 and attracted 49 rides. But it has since grown into nearly week long event that attracts up to 30,000 participants some years, according to the organization’s website.
This was the first time Springfield has hosted the event, which changes locations almost every year, though the group returns to Kansas City, Missouri, every 10 years.
Local businesses said they saw a noticeable uptick in business due to the roundup, including Hall’s Harley-Davidson, 2301 N. Dirksen Parkway, which is only a 5-minute ride from the fairgrounds.
“Our traffic flow through the dealership, whether they were here to buy a T-shirt or having service work done on their motorcycle, (or) maybe buying accessories for their motorcycles, we saw large numbers in all the departments throughout the dealership,” said Diane Hughes, the dealership’s general manager.
Hughes said the dealership has hosted large motorcycle events before, but this ranks as one of the largest. She said people from all over, including California, Maryland, Mississippi and Texas, stopped in.
“Great crowd and really great people,” Hughes said. “I can’t express how much that we were appreciative that the National Bikers roundup brought this event to Springfield.”
According to one organizer, hotels within a 40-mile radius of Springfield were fully booked, a boon for the local hotel industry, which is typically slow the week before the Illinois State Fair.
Rozell Nunn, 69, one of the event’s organizers, said he was disappointed that some local businesses used the organization’s logo without their permission or compensating them, but, on the balance, the week was successful.
“That was one thing I was disappointed by,” Nunn said. “But other than that, everybody was nice and the sheriff’s department was 110 percent excellent.”
The Rev. Lawrence Walls, a pastor from St. Louis, characterized this year’s event as “OK,” but better than the previous few years.
“The spot and the fellowship was beautiful,” Walls said. “You take a lemon and you make lemonade out of it. You make the best out of it.”
Most said they would be open to returning to Springfield in the future. Next year’s roundup will be in Mississippi in a city to be announced later.
Contact Brenden Moore: 788-1526, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/brendenmoore13.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The end is near for the Harley Davidson motorcycle plant in Kansas City north.
Many workers there will be working their final shifts Thursday and Friday.
Two of three shifts at the plant along Congress just south of I-435 will clock out for the final time. Around 180 workers total will say goodbye to a factory that has operated the past twenty years.
The actual plant is not expected to completely close until next year. One shift will continue to make motorcycles, but they will begin the process of moving operations from Kansas City to York, Pennsylvania.
Harley has a state-of-the art factory in Pennsylvania, and that is where they will soon make the three models of motorcycle they currently make in Kansas City.
All 800 Kansas City employees are expected to lose their jobs while York will gain 450 new jobs at their factory.
Workers have known this day was coming – Harley announced it planned to shut down the plant back in January.
Harley said they are not selling as many bikes and they once did. Because of this, Harley is building a plant in Thailand to sell more bikes in Asia – especially India, where there is a strong love for motorcycles.
Earlier this summer President Trump voiced his anger at Harley shutting down this plant in Kansas City and building one in Thailand, but Harley officials point out European tariffs on American bikes are very high. By making them in Asia, they can save a lot of money.
The Harley plant in Kansas City has been operating since 1998 – there’s no word on what will become of the building after Harley leaves.
Due to the shut down, the Kansas City plant no longer offers factory tours and the visitors center – where they sell Harley merchandise – will close in early September.